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Boat Sales and Service Assistant

Hamlin’s Marina is a family owned boat dealership, service center and marina located along the Penobscot River in Hampden.

We are currently looking to hire a hardworking, engergetic, self-motivated and reliable individual to join our busy team for the summer!

Duties to include but not limited to: boat detailing, showroom maintenance, setting up displays, rearranging of boats and general upkeep. 

Full time position with possible overtime. No previous experience required. 

Apply in person to Reid at the service department or via email at rgarrity@hamlinsmarina.com 


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Aussie Boat Sales adds Polycraft boats

Melbourne dealer scores instant sales success with polyethylene-made boats.

Melbourne boat dealer, Aussie Boat Sales, has announced that it will be selling the range of Polycraft roto-moulded polyethylene boats manufactured in Queensland.

Based in Bundaberg, Polycraft manufactures a range of boats from the 3.00 metre Tuff Tender through to the 5.99 metre Frontier cuddy. Scott O’Hare from Aussie Boat Sales said the tough construction and safe, stable hull design of the boats have made them a favourite with both commercial and recreational owners Australia-wide.

“We had a good experience running Polycraft boats in our hire fleet a few years ago,” he said. “No matter what the hirers put them through, the boats handled it with ease. They were stable, safe and always looked good, even after copping the usual hiding hire/drive boats often receive.

“We are excited about representing this great Aussie product and cannot believe the response we have already received straight off Polycraft’s website. Our first sale was a big Frontier cuddy with a Honda 175hp on day one. It is clear that Victorians love the Polycraft product and we look forward to our stock arriving in the coming weeks.”

To mark its new appointment, Aussie Boat Sales will be giving away a Polycraft Tuff Tender at this week’s Melbourne Boat Show.

“We reckon the 3.00m Tuff Tender is a brilliant alternative to a canoe or kayak as an inexpensive fishing platform,” said O’Hare. “They are far more stable, carry three adults and are just as easy to store and handle. We have put together a nice little boat with a Honda 2.3hp four-stroke outboard, Garmin fish finder and a few fishing goodies.

“Anyone can enter to win at the Aussie Boat Sales boat show stand over the four days,” said O’Hare.

For more information go to www.polycraft.com.au or call Aussie Boat Sales on (03) 9397 6977.


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Nation of Debt : Big ticket sales boom

Sellers of big ticket items like cars, boats and caravans say business is booming on the back of a strong economy and a wealth effect driven by rising property prices.

David Crawford, chief executive of the Motor Industry Association, said New Zealand was headed for its third record year for new vehicle sales.

“2014 was a record then 2015 broke that and now we are already 5 per cent up on sales this time last year.

“We are heading for a third record year in a row — that is significant.” Crawford said a confident economy, strong immigration and people feeling wealthier through rising house prices were all driving factors.

Of the new cars sold in New Zealand around 70 per cent were sold to businesses versus 30 per cent to private.

“As the economy has got stronger we find that those business sales have reverted back the three yearly cycle.” During the global financial crisis businesses pushed out their purchases to four or five yearly.

New car sales:

2014 – 127,352

2015 – 134,234

2016 (until May 31) – 55,435

source: Motor Industry Association

Crawford said luxury car sales had been the first to be hit by the down-turn but had also been the first area to recover followed by commercial vehicles.

Crawford said strong building growth in Christchurch and Auckland was also influencing commercial sales.

“When the trades people have good strong forward orders of work they tend to upgrade equipment.” Crawford said private sales had gone up at the same time as commercial sales.

Watch: Nation of Debt – NZ’s trillion dollar time bomb:

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“I suspect it is people feeling wealthier as part of that.” “Their house prices have gone up so they feel more wealthy.” Cheap finance was also making it attractive.

Crawford said most new car sales were done using finance.

“I can’t tell you whether that is mortgage debt or other finance — but there is a lot of finance going on.” Mike Rose, organiser of the HutchWilco Boat show, said it did not collect official figures of boat sales from the show but anecdotal evidence from boat manufacturers and retailers pointed to a good year.

Rose, who has been in the industry since the mid 1980s said boat sales tended to be driven by three factors — house prices, low interest rates and people receiving a windfall either through an inheritance or sale of business.

Continued below.

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Rayglass boats chief executive Dave Larson said this year’s boat show had been its best since 2007.

“The overall economy is feeling pretty good especially up in Auckland “The weather makes a big difference – it’s been a good year for game fishing – people are feeling happy.

“For Aucklanders their house is going up in value at $1000 a day so naturally they are feeling wealthier.

Larson said the industry had been through some tight times.

The tap had virtually shut within a week after the global financial crisis hit.

Sales for the last few years had been steady but it was now very busy and was already getting ready for the run into Christmas which usually did not start for another two or three months.

“It comes back to the strength of the economy. People aren’t waiting to go and make a purchase.”

Boats for sale at the Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show. The latest show was reportedly the best since 2007.

Larson said most people had their funding organised before they walked in the door so it was unclear how many people were using their mortgage to fund a boat purchase.

Richard Martin, owner of Woods Caravan and Motor Campers on Auckland’s North Shore said his sales were up 15 per cent this year.

Martin said he had been in business for over 40 years and had definitely noticed a pick up in business in the last couple of years.

“The economy is definitely humming along.” “Each year it is getting a little better.” Martin said very few of his buyers, which were typically aged 60 and over, used finance.

“I would say most of the business is cash.”


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Same-store boat dealer sales plunge in May

same-store overall

Boat dealer sales dropped by their largest amount in more than five years in May, giving credence to anecdotal reports of slowing activity during the month.

Overall sales fell 7.4 percent year-over-year, the biggest one month drop since the recovery began, according to the latest report from CDK Global Recreation, which is based on data from users of the company’s Lightspeed software.

It was the first time same-store sales have dropped this year and only the second time since January 2015. Still, overall same-store sales have been up year-over-year for 25 of the last 29 months dating back to January 2014.

The biggest cause of the downturn was an 8.2 percent drop in unit sales, the first year-over-year decline since December 2015 and the largest since October 2014. This could be a reflection of what many in the industry had speculated — that sales had been moved earlier in the year with the mild winter in many parts of the country. Gains posted earlier this year were probably unsustainable, with for example, unit sales up 28.8 percent year-over-year in February.

Service department revenue was down slightly in May, o.7 percent, from a year earlier. Service revenue has been down three of the first five months of 2016.

Parts and accessories revenue was up 0.2 percent for the month, improving on the 1.6 percent decline posted in April.

 


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OKC-area retailers surprised by hike in boat sales

Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The state is below the national trend in boat sales, but retailers report this season is faring better than last year.

“If you look at both of our locations, we’re up about 70 percent (in sales), year to date,” Steve Jennings, owner of Blackbeard Marine Inc. in Tulsa and Kingston said.

Jennings works at the Kingston location, which sprawls across 13 acres. The Tulsa store is only about 3 acres, and he said he’s running out of storage room. He said he’s done $2 million in sales this year, with another $2.5 million waiting to close.

“Our summer really gets going May to Labor Day,” he said. “We’ll sell double the rest of the year.”

Nationally, it’s expected to be a good year for boat sales, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association. The group anticipates sales of new powerboats will increase 5 to 7 percent over last year. In 2015, powerboat sales increased 8.5 percent compared to 2014.

NMMA President Thom Dammrich said warm, sunny weather will drive more people to retailers and waterways. He said boating is not as susceptible to low gasoline prices, though some people do take their extra disposable income and purchase a watercraft.

He said the retail increase is likely about the weather. In Oklahoma last summer, several lakes were flooded, which kept people off the water. But in Texas and California, some areas had drought conditions. This summer, lake levels seem to be returning to normal, he said.

Nevertheless, Oklahoma has to climb out of a small hole from 2014, when boating registrations decreased 1 percent compared to 2013. New powerboat, outboard engine, trailer and aftermarket accessory sales increased $2 million. Between 2013 and 2014, there was about a $28 million increase in the accessory sales, according to the NMMA.

Dammrich said two summers of extreme weather – drought and then flooding – could have caused some boaters or potential boaters to get cabin fever; this year, they were anxious to get to retailers or boat shows.

At Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees, Shangri-La Marina and Boat Sales didn’t see a slowdown in sales after the winter boat shows, said Mike Williams, communications director.

“Sales have been increasing and consistent since the Tulsa and Oklahoma City boat shows in February,” he said.

Sales are up 15 percent compared to the same time period last year. He said his team is surprised at the increase. They were bracing for a slow year after energy-industry layoffs. He said when the price of oil dropped in the 1980s, it devastated the retail boat industry.

“Oklahoma’s economy has become much more diversified, and we can sure see that in boat sales,” he said.

Oklahoma boat registrations have not reached the pre-recession total of 223,758, which was the 2007 amount. Nationwide, Dammrich said sales haven’t reached the 2007 numbers either. In 2007, about 270,000 powerboats were sold, with 238,000 sold in 2015.

“It’s been a slow road back,” he said. “Everyone would like a much faster recovery, but it’s been a healthy way to come back.”


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Tiara adds sparkle to new boat sales

Scott Neil


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  • Uptick in sales: this Tiara 36 Coronet is the first new Tiara to be sold in Bermuda since 2005, and is seen as further evidence of growing confidence in the economy (Photograph by Scott Neil)

  • Driving seat: the cockpit of the Tiara 36 Coronet

  • Time to eat: a grill, sink and refrigerator fitted on the Tiara 36 Coronet

  • Put your feet up: a seating area converted into a bed in the lower quarters of the Tiara 36 Coronet

Further evidence of an improving outlook for boat sales in Bermuda, and the economy in general, has come from the sale of a high-spec motor yacht by PW Marine Bermuda.

The first new Tiara boat to be sold on the island since 2005 is the latest fillip for the company, which has previously reported a significant uptick in sales that began last year.

The Tiara 36 Coronet has a base-boat price of about $450,000, although this goes up depending on the specifications, equipment and accessories a new owner chooses as add-ons.

Linda Down, sales manager at PW Marine, is in no doubt that the first sale of a new Tiara in Bermuda for more than a decade is significant.

She was involved in marketing and selling the prestigious marque in Bermuda for many years before PW Marine secured the dealership rights three years ago.

As she prepared to hand over the 36-foot boat to its new owner, she said: To me it indicates the economy is healing and people are feeling more confident in Bermuda going forward.

The Americas Cup is part of the equation; the prospect of securing a good position on the water. Clearly, if you have family and friends coming to visit you want to have a platform to watch the races.

In April, Ms Down noted that the lean years that followed the economic downturn of the late 2000s appear to have come to an end following a tremendous growth in sales of new boats during the past 18 months.

The purchases have been fairly evenly split between Bermudians and non-Bermudians, with the former tending to make the larger buys.

The Tiara 36 Coronet is hailed as an elegant choice. It features a small grill and barbecue station, with sink, counter, cooler storage and a refrigerator. The upper cockpit area, which has plenty of seating, can be enclosed and cooled with air-conditioning. The boat is fitted with Garmin electronics.

In the below-deck retreat area is a dining area that can quickly be transformed into sleeping quarters. There is a television, sink, small stove, microwave, and an aft bunk where children can sleep.

People can overnight, or go out on the water for a weekend, said Ms Down, who added that previous clients had mentioned how they loved the striking beauty of the boat.

While the Americas Cup finals in Bermuda next year have clearly increased the level of interest in owning a boat to watch the spectacle, Ms Down said there is also a trend in people upgrading their boats.

During the past week, PW Marine has delivered four new Boston Whaler boats to clients, and it has a further two handovers lined up for July.

Last year and this year combined the sales have been significantly higher, and we are still talking to clients about buying this year; it is never too late in the season, said Ms Down, who has been involved in the industry for more than 30 years.

PW Marine, which has its headquarters on the corner of Serpentine Road and Woodlands Road, in Pembroke, has also seen improving sales in the supply side of the business.

PW Marine Bermuda has a Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/PW-Marine-Bermuda-137154523063636/


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Published Jun 6, 2016 at 8:00 am
(Updated Jun 5, 2016 at 9:24 pm)




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Oklahoma City-area retailers surprised by hike in boat sales

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – The state is below the national trend in boat sales, but retailers report this season is faring better than last year.

“If you look at both of our locations, we’re up about 70 percent (in sales), year to date,” Steve Jennings, owner of Blackbeard Marine Inc. in Tulsa and Kingston, told The Journal Record (http://bit.ly/25CTgfU ).

Jennings works at the Kingston location, which sprawls across 13 acres. The Tulsa store is only about 3 acres, and he said he’s running out of storage room. He said he’s done $2 million in sales this year, with another $2.5 million waiting to close.

“Our summer really gets going May to Labor Day,” he said. “We’ll sell double the rest of the year.”

Nationally, it’s expected to be a good year for boat sales, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association. The group anticipates sales of new powerboats will increase 5 to 7 percent over last year. In 2015, powerboat sales increased 8.5 percent compared to 2014.

NMMA President Thom Dammrich said warm, sunny weather will drive more people to retailers and waterways. He said boating is not as susceptible to low gasoline prices, though some people do take their extra disposable income and purchase a watercraft.

He said the retail increase is likely about the weather. In Oklahoma last summer, several lakes were flooded, which kept people off the water. But in Texas and California, some areas had drought conditions. This summer, lake levels seem to be returning to normal, he said.

Nevertheless, Oklahoma has to climb out of a small hole from 2014, when boating registrations decreased 1 percent compared to 2013. New powerboat, outboard engine, trailer and aftermarket accessory sales increased $2 million. Between 2013 and 2014, there was about a $28 million increase in the accessory sales, according to the NMMA.

Dammrich said two summers of extreme weather – drought and then flooding – could have caused some boaters or potential boaters to get cabin fever; this year, they were anxious to get to retailers or boat shows.

At Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees, Shangri-La Marina and Boat Sales didn’t see a slowdown in sales after the winter boat shows, said Mike Williams, communications director.

“Sales have been increasing and consistent since the Tulsa and Oklahoma City boat shows in February,” he said.

Sales are up 15 percent compared to the same time period last year. He said his team is surprised at the increase. They were bracing for a slow year after energy-industry layoffs. He said when the price of oil dropped in the 1980s, it devastated the retail boat industry.

“Oklahoma’s economy has become much more diversified, and we can sure see that in boat sales,” he said.

Oklahoma boat registrations have not reached the pre-recession total of 223,758, which was the 2007 amount. Nationwide, Dammrich said sales haven’t reached the 2007 numbers either. In 2007, about 270,000 powerboats were sold, with 238,000 sold in 2015.

“It’s been a slow road back,” he said. “Everyone would like a much faster recovery, but it’s been a healthy way to come back.”

Story Continues →


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Boating industry sailing into a strong summer


Mike Gaynor of Oak Creek secures gear aboard his 18.6 foot Lund sport angler boat at McKinley Marina.


Neil Miller (left) and Mike Gaynor, both of Oak Creek, clean their morning catch of coho salmon at McKinley Marina.

By Rick Barrett of the Journal Sentinel

Lower fuel prices, higher water levels and renewed consumer confidence have given Wisconsin’s $616 million marine industry a healthy start for the 2016 boating season.

With brisk sales nationwide, inventories of new boats are at historically low levels, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, partly as boat builders keep production close to consumer demand.

“We anticipate sustained, steady growth across most boat categories during the busiest boating months of the year,” said Thom Dammrich, NMMA president.

Outboard boat sales, which represent 85% of new traditional powerboats sold and include pontoon, aluminum and fiberglass fishing boats, were up 7.6% in 2015 to 155,800 units.

Wisconsin ranked seventh among states in sales of new powerboats, engines, trailers and accessories in 2015, ahead of California and behind North Carolina, according to NMMA figures.

This year, the marine industry is settling into a “new normal,” after having seen record-high sales before the last recession and a collapse in business during the downturn.

“Things have come back and sorted themselves out, but they are still nowhere near what they were before the recession, in terms of sales,” said Charles Plueddeman, a contributing editor for Boating Magazine, from Oshkosh.

Not to be stuck with excess inventory, manufacturers are placing more emphasis on semi-custom products where a customer chooses colors, upholstery, engine and electronics options before their boat is built.

Gasoline prices, while higher than they were in the winter, are still down from last summer. That has a significant positive effect on boating because large powerboats, especially, use a lot of gas.

Higher lake levels also have helped, said Plueddeman, because a couple of years ago, boaters were struggling with shallow water.

“It wasn’t even just the larger boats. I think it had gotten to the point where, in Green Bay, even walleye and smallmouth bass fishermen couldn’t find a good place to launch,” Plueddeman said.

Skipper Bud’s, one of Wisconsin’s largest boat dealerships, has expanded its service center in Pewaukee following the loss of some nearby dealerships.

“Due to dealership turnover in the Lake Country area over the past several years, many boaters are looking for stability with their sales or service providers. … We simply outgrew our service facility because of the increased number of boats we are servicing and storing,” said Skipper Bud’s president Mike Petrasky Jr.

Sales of new pontoon and fishing boats were especially strong last year, but now it’s “pretty healthy across the board,” Petrasky said about the industry.

Sailboat sales, however, are down significantly, said John Kukuk, chairman of the Wisconsin Marine Association and the owner of Nestegg Marine in Marinette.

Some of the decline in interest in sailboats could be from lower fuel prices. When prices are high, there’s more interest in boats powered by the wind, and when prices drop, so does the interest in sailing.

The outlook for recreational boating is solid the next couple of years, but after that it is anybody’s guess what will happen, Kukuk said.

The average age of a U.S. boat owner was 55.5 in 2015, a statistic that is worrisome as the number of young people coming into boating hasn’t been enough to offset older people who are likely to leave.

“What I am finding, from a personal standpoint, is that young people are not getting involved because they have too much on their plates,” Kukuk said.

Generation X and millennials say they don’t have a lot of time or money to spare for an activity such as boating. They are more likely to rent a boat a few weekends a year rather than buy one and not use it much.

In response, boat manufacturers are trying to attract more nontraditional customers, including Hispanics, African-Americans and Asian-Americans.

Ethnic diversity is one of the industry’s most challenging issues, Kukuk said.

Rick Barrett thumbnail


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Denison Yacht Sales adds Daytona Beach office

Denison Yacht Sales has opened a sales office in Daytona Beach — its sixth location in Florida, the Fort Lauderdale yacht dealer announced recently.

The new office is a partnership with Parker Yacht Sales located at Daytona’s Halifax Harbor Marina and will be led by yacht broker Bobby Parker with support from brokers Mike Mahoney and Sam Swanger.

The Daytona location’s initial focus will be pre-owned boat sales, but it will be seeking new boat business opportunities in the future.

“The Parker family represents almost a hundred years of industry experience and they are well-known throughout Florida for taking excellent care of boaters,” said Bob Denison, company president. “Since 1927, the Parkers have always done the right thing, in both new and used boat sales.”

asatchell@tribpub.com, Twitter@


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Boat Dealers Navigate Challenges to Post Strong Sales

Rising Tide

Oxbow Marina in Northampton

Oxbow Marina in Northampton

A boat is, for most buyers, a true luxury item, and price tags can get high. Yet, boat sales have remained steady over the decades, and even the Great Recession posed only a blip for the industry, which has posted steady gains for the past several years. The bigger challenge, sellers say, is generational — specifically, drawing young people into the activity who will then share the passion with their own children.

Diane Bassett Zable calls it “water therapy.”

“You go away on a Friday night, spend a couple days and nights on a boat, and come back refreshed — you feel like you’ve been away even longer than that,” said Bassett Zable, co-owner of Bassett Boat, whose family business has been in Springfield for 73 years.

“You might not get your kids to sit still in your 29-foot living room, but on a 29-foot boat, away from video games or TV — unless you choose to have a TV — they’ll start playing cards again with the family,” she went on. “It’s a wonderful family activity. You’ll find a lot of families that boat also snow ski together, and vice versa; they want that family unity. Boating really does give that to you.”

Maritime enthusiasts across the U.S. echo that passion, and boat sales nationally have remained healthy over the past few years, with steady improvement each year the norm, according to Boating Industry.

In fact, following a solid 2015, this sector is expecting an even stronger year in 2016, Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Assoc., told the publication, noting that the broader economic indicators that affect sales are healthy. “The economy, while not robustly strong, is still positive. Fuel prices remain low. Interest rates remain low. There’s nothing negative happening to adversely affect boat sales in the coming year that we can see today.”

Chuck Burke, who co-owns Action Marine in Holyoke with Paul Robillard, notes that the inverse is also true. “When you get high gas prices, when interest rates go up and the economy is shaky, we see a direct drop on sales,” he said.

Not lately, however. Through mid-May, Action has seen a 16% increase in business over this time last year, but Robillard said that number may be a bit deceptive. Last year, a longer, colder winter meant a later start on sales, which was followed by a very strong June. This year’s mild winter weather got sales ramped up earlier, but a mediocre June would bring the numbers in line with 2015, so the jury is still out. But the partners are confident that brisk business will continue through the spring and into summer.

Mick Duda, owner of Oxbow Marina in Northampton, which has long sold a wide range of boats alongside its slip-rental, service, and supply business, agreed.

“Business has stayed strong,” he told BusinessWest. “The only slow year was about seven years ago, in the recession. People didn’t have the discretionary income, so they didn’t buy boats, or they were buying repossessed boats.”

In a healthy economy, it’s a different story.

“The people we primarily sell to have the capacity to buy these things. We’re not selling small sports-store-type products. Our cheapest new boat starts off around $20,000, but some go up to a half-million. That’s the niche I want to be in.”

Diane Bassett Zable

Diane Bassett Zable says a passion for boating is often passed down from parents to children, so it’s important to get young families interested in the activity.

In a recent Boating Industry reader survey — including boat dealers, manufacturers, marina owners, and others working in the industry — 77%  said they expect their revenue to increase this year. More than half expect revenue to increase by more than 10% for 2016, while only 4% expect their revenue to decrease. That would be an improvement over 2015, a year when 71% said their revenue increased, 13% reported a decline, and 16% said business was flat.

Duda said his team at Oxbow — which includes his children, Clay Duda and Shelley Anderson — has been recording strong sales at regional boating expositions. “We go in with a positive attitude, and our shows are always really strong. We have top-notch products because we’ve been in it so long, and we get clientele who can well afford to buy a boat.”

Behind the Numbers

Still, nearly half the respondents in the Boating Industry survey said they are ‘very concerned’ about the challenge affordability poses to the industry, with 96% saying they were at least ‘somewhat concerned’ about the issue.

But Bassett Zable said many are looking at raw numbers instead of the monthly cost — banks will accept 15-year terms on new boats up to $50,000 and 20 years for pricier models — while too many look to buy used, not realizing that new boats bring warranties and lower interest rates.

“A lot of people might not realize how affordable a new boat is,” she said. “When they’re new to the sport, they say, ‘oh, what do you have used?’ I chuckle at that. If you’re new to something, why do you want someone else’s headaches?”

Instead, Bassett deals almost exclusively in new craft, backed up with long warranties and a service culture — the staff answers their phones even after hours and on weekends — that have ranked the business second nationally on the industry’s Customer Satisfaction Index. After all, she said, a negative experience will chase newcomers away much more quickly than the price of a new boat.

As for a boat’s value, if it has a sleeping area, she said, that can become a second-home writeoff. “A lot of people don’t realize that. It’s direct waterfront property. You can wake up with a cup of coffee and a seagull. You can finance that for $100,000 and pay $599 a month. That’s the cost of a fancy hotel room for one night. It’s really affordable, but I don’t think that message has reached everyone.”

Mild winter weather with minimal snow, as the region enjoyed this past winter, can help raise the profile of boating come spring, Burke said. “You’re not getting bogged down in shoveling snow, and when the shows start in January, February, and March, that kind of gets the ball rolling. February is more like mid-March, business-wise, because of the lack of snow.”

In addition, he recalled, the last few years have seen rainy springs that raised water levels and kept marinas and boat owners from opening their docks early. “This year, the weather was more consistent, which was conducive to early boating.”

Duda doesn’t have an issue at Oxbow, whose slips are protected from swells and heavy flooding. “On the river proper, you never know what’s going to happen, but here, there’s no current whatsoever,” he said, adding that the slips are secured by a network of underwater cables, keeping everything in place.

He said the marina benefits greatly from its visibility from Interstate 91, but he doesn’t wait for business to come to him, taking part in shows throughout the Northeast and delivering product from New Jersey up to Canada. But plenty of customers visit the spacious showroom, lined with Crownline fiberglass vessels, Bennington pontoons, and other models.

“You can’t beat the exposure from the interstate. This is the crossroads of the Northeast, the junction of 90 and 91,” he said. “And people with this kind of money want to see what they’re buying; they don’t want to look at a catalog. They want to come inside a nice showroom and look at the boats displayed.”

The property, celebrating its 50th anniversary with a series of events this year, has come a long way from its humble beginnings. Duda was a dairy farmer in Easthampton when he came across some property for sale along the Connecticut River. He bought it with the intention of farming, but started to consider boating as a potential business opportunity. So he bought more land neighboring the first parcel — where hundreds of boats are now moored — and launched a marina. Today, he owns more than 200 acres, which is home to not only the marina, but two soccer fields and the headquarters of a waterski team.

“When I met with the neighbors, they were happy because it was a mess over here,” he said, recalling that the property was a popular site for nighttime parties before he began buying up the land — a good investment, it turned out, considering that waterfront property has become so expensive that many dealers can afford only small parcels with smaller showrooms. “But Oxbow has grown so much. We’re busy.”

Living Large

Sellers of large boats are experiencing a resurgence in business. Specifically, boats over 40 feet, hit hard during the recession, posted some of their strongest numbers, Dammrich noted, especially in the offshore fishing market.

Buyers who can work a larger boat into their monthly budget have more than one reason to do so, Bassett Zable said, including ease of operation. Twin-engine boats above 30 feet long can be fitted with a joystick and steered like a video game — in other words, much easier than a smaller boat.

However, many factors go into choosing the right vessel, Duda said. “A boat has to meet the needs of the family and what its desire is. If it’s just fishing, they want an offshore fishing-type boat. If they’re interested in cruising, overnights, that’s something different. If you can fit the family to the right model boat and price, then they’ll be happy. If not, they won’t be happy.”

Paul Robillard, left, and Chuck Burke say a robust service business buoys the bottom line at Action Marine no matter what kind of sales year it’s been.

Still, despite the positive signs, Boating Industry reported that a decline in entry-level boaters remains an issue for the industry in 2016, which is reflected in the continuing decline in sales in the ‘runabout,’ or small motorboat, market.

“Back in the ’80s, young people were getting into boating, but fewer are now,” said Burke, a 50-year industry veteran who opened Action with Robillard 26 years ago. That’s why attending boat shows is important. “It gets the boating season going and allows people to see what’s out there, what’s new.”

Action specializes in fishing boats — alumimum vessels between $10,000 and $20,000, and some offshore fiberglass fishing boats in the $20,000 to $40,000 range. “Our strong suit is fishing. What we’ve got, our niche, we’re sticking with that.”

But fishing is just one way to enjoy the water, Duda said. “Boating is certainly very popular, and it’s a true family form of recreation, which everyone in a family can enjoy at the same time.”

Bassett Zable understands the family appeal, but knows it’s a constant challenge to attract families who have never experienced boat ownership.

“Boating is here to stay, and once people understand how great it is, they love it. It’s such a fabulous family memory. And if their children grow up with it, they’ll want to stay part of it, so we have to make sure it stays affordable.”

To that end, her goal is to make boat shopping a pleasurable experience, and stress service after the sale. “Dealers look like equals, but we’re not,” she said. “Not all manufacturers are equal, and neither are dealers. What’s their reputation? If they say they’re going to do something, do they do it? If you buy a boat from Bassett, you’re joining my Bassett Boat family — and I take that seriously.”

She recalled someone who called, panicked, on a Sunday evening. He needed to clean up a spill in the cabin of his 34-foot boat before his wife saw it, but couldn’t find the central vacuum. “He was so happy that I answered the phone and helped him. I was in a supermarket in Florida, but I took the call.”

Bassett Boat, which overlooks Lake Massasoit in Springfield and boasts a second location in Old Saybrook, Conn., also offers learn-to-boat programs to turn novices into capable captains.

“I want to deal only with quality products that bring quality customers, and then turn around and give them quality service,” Bassett Zable said. “When you can stick with that strategy, that’s a winning combination.”

Continued Growth

Speaking of service, Burke said that side of the business is what insulates Action from recessions like the one that struck eight years ago. “If the economy goes down, people tend to put their money into repairs to keep what they have going. Either way, it kind of balances out for us because we have a strong service background, and people bring their boats to us for service. In fact, that’s what keeps the door open. Sales are nice, but secondary.”

Duda also stressed the value of taking care of customers, and said many employees have stayed with Oxbow for decades and know the business well.

“Work is what I live for, and I’m still working at my age,” he said. “I still wake up at 3:30 to plan the day.”

With his children doing most of the selling these days, Duda can devote part of his time to growing vegetables on some of Oxbow’s acreage. Last year saw squash, and this year he’ll be growing sweet corn.

“After all,” he said, “I’m still a farmer” — one who, 50 years ago, saw a future in the boat business and took the plunge.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at bednar@businesswest.com


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